This morning USYers began corralling in to the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, coming by bus and plane from all over North America. The hotel filled with teens hugging, laughing and howdying as they reunited with old and met new friends.
The excitement spilled over into Opening Session, as more than 600 teens from across USY’s 16 regions danced into the convention ballroom sporting regional t-shirts and singing with infectious ruach (spirit).
For the first time ever we were joined by representatives from NOAM, USY’s global sister youth movement, who, carrying flags from their home countries of Israel, Uganda, Argentina, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil Chile, Australia, and Latin America, took part in the celebrations. The convention officially kicks off a new stage of USY’s longstanding partnership with NOAM: a year-long pairing of their global chapters with USY regions. Engaging together in study, pen pal programs, tikun olam (social action) projects and more, the relationships formed over the coming year will help build global connections and create a path for a bright, shared Jewish future.
As everyone settled into their seats, co-chairs Noa Rose & Harrison Steier took the stage to officially open the convention. Performing songs and skits, they pumped the teens up before Rabbi David Levy, USCJ’s Sr. Director of Teen Learning, gave his presentation on this year’s theme, Chazak, Chazak, v’Nitchazek; Be Strong, Be Strong, Let Us Be Strengthened.
“To be strong we need to have to ground ourselves in something. Our [Jewish] traditions give us strength…Our relationships give us strength” Rabbi Levy said, adding, “[And] we all need to find ways to strengthen others…whoever is in need.”
Throughout the next five days the teens will engage in interactive programming related to this theme, discovering the many ways they can use their strength, perseverance, and power to effect change in the world.
At the end of the session the convention body joined together to light the menorah and celebrate the second night of Hanukkah. With candles blazing, the teens headed out to enjoy USY’s Texas State Fair. Complete with carnival games, stilt walkers, line dancers, an inflatable bull, and more, USY showed why you don’t mess with Texas.
It has been a busy first day here, but there’s a lot more to come the rest of the week. Happy Hanukkah to you and your family and laila tov from all of us cowboys and cowgirls here at #ICDallas!